Different stages/styles of engagement with this community

When I was interviewing Stefan Schultz for our Journalism in the Disinformation Age discussion, he included some different strategies that each stage uses for what he calls their “conference culture”. I think we can see all of these strategies playing out in community spaces such as this, and I think it may be helpful to make some of these nested subjects into objects.

Amber stage — this is pure talking-point material, a top-down communication style. Perspectives are handed down through a perceived media or institutional “authority”, and then repeated uncritically by adherents to a particular ideology.

Early orange (expert) stage — this is “debate culture”, where the goal is always to compare the most idealized version of your own perspective (which is often established via Amber top-down communication), to the most negative straw-man depiction of the other’s perspective. Believes “critical thinking” primarily means to be critical of all perspectives that are not your own. The goal is to feel like the smartest person in the room.

Late orange (achiever) stage — this is more like “dialogue culture”, where the point is not necessarily to “win” a conversation (though that can take place as well), but rather to learn more about each other’s views and values. These dialogues can certainly take the form of debate, of course, but not the “bad faith” debate of early orange, which likes to make caricatures and straw-men out of opposing views. Instead there is more emphasis on “steel-manning” each other’s point of view, rather than straw-manning them, since “critical thinking” means we need to be even more critical of our own ideas than we are of other people’s ideas.

Green stage — this looks something like “discourse culture”, where the dialogue is opened up to far more perspectives, which can produce a far more robust conversation with a pluralism of informative perspectives across a wide spectrum of thought. At this stage, “alternative” perspectives are often actively prioritized over “mainstream” or “orthodox” or “dominant” perspectives. Often lacks a way to navigate these accumulated perspectives, or to recognize which perspectives may be more relevant/germane/legitimate (that is, a lack of a real “enfoldment mechanism”). This is the stage that many/most of our social media platforms currently run on.

Teal stage — I like to call this “enfoldment culture”, where participants have done the inner work to dislodge their identity from their political or ideological views, allowing them to have more robust conversations, to rethink or enhance their own positions, and to distinguish partial-truths from less-partial-truths, whether in themselves or from others. Can still be passionately invested in a discussion or a set of ideas, but there is much less “grasping” since that passion is yet another subject to be made into object. Has much more capacity to fold together seemingly irreconcilable truths, often by using methods such as polarity management, integral truth claims, and stage-specific interpretations of truth.

To me, this can a fairly useful way to gauge at least some aspect another person’s development as you are talking to them. It’s rarely a good idea to try to make an object out of someone else’s subject, unless you have direct and intimate access to their interiors — not only is that assessment often incorrect, it also tends to be rude. However, these different styles of engagement described above are often products of a person’s interpersonal line — and since “interpersonal” also means “intersubjective”, and requires more than one person/subject to participate, it gives the person/subject on the other end of the interaction more access to the first subject’s interiors, inferred from their overall preferred conversation style (so long as we remember there is often a gap between one’s interpersonal growth, and one’s intrapersonal growth, especially when emotions begin to flare up). Those at higher stages are capable of inhabiting the lower stages if/when needed or appropriate, but those at lower stages are incapable of inhabiting the higher.

Hopefully another useful heuristic to help us navigate discussions in this space, and to engage with each other with as much good-faith authenticity as possible!


What would really be useful is a 5x5 graph showing how a participant at one stage can

For example, it describes Teal interaction where “participants” (plural) have done their inner work. What if this isn’t the case? What works in “mixed company” of the various stages?

What are techniques to elevate a discussion? Let’s say, when confronted by an authoritarian top-down figure, a green response could be Nonviolent Resistance, such as Ghandi vs the British Empire. And that also results in getting beaten numerous times or even killed, and only worked because the British believed they were a moral people and India had people to spare, I suppose.

I love this idea, basically turning this into a matrix where we can see how each stage engages with every other stage, including its own.

The outline above is obviously meant as a diagnostic tool to help us calibrate, set, or reset our own intentions and expectations, but it’s just the beginning of the story. What you suggest would be the middle of the story, where all the interesting stuff actually happens.

So I’m thinking about a few approaches

  • what I call the “X+1” approach, where you calibrate just slightly above the stage the other person or group is engaging.
  • a “transformative” approach, where a lightbulb goes off and the individual can “jump over” several stages of development.
  • the “throw them into chaos and then insert subliminal messaging” method where you spin them faster and faster in the direction they are wanting to go until they realize that their stage isn’t working and they wildly grasp at the next exit you offer out of the discussion. This might be judged by some as a “dark art” when done on the unwilling, lol

Which brings us to willingness - definitely willingness greatly impacts results and would need to inform the method.

I’m just throwing concepts out there. This isn’t an organized presentation, lol. More like brainstorming.

@Michelle. Drop enough bread crumbs… :joy:

1 Like

I wonder too what the physical structure looks like. If people could choose a transformative option and then a button section would be available. People could hit, instead of “like”, something that could be reflected on more deeply. Maybe they could hit something that allowed that “x+1” section to be engaged and feedback could be offered but in a healthy system that worked with developmental drivers. The key is choice, both for safety and respect of autonym.

Going to try to respond to two of your comments at once, because they are related :slight_smile:

Ah yes, the $50,000 question :slight_smile: Ryan Oelke and I just did a show about this a couple days ago, talking a close look at Haidt’s new piece (Why the Past 10 Years of American Life Have Been Uniquely Stupid), and asking many of the same questions you are asking now. I hope to get it published within the next week.

First, I should mention that my role as “social media director” is toward the bottom of my totem pole, in terms of my ongoing job priorities. It is something I care a great deal about, which is why I created this very forum, using the best forum software I could find (it has its limits, but there are many things I like about this Discourse software the community is running on). However, sadly, I have not found any platform software that can do quite what I want it to do — create a genuine “community of the adequate” that is capable of actually reinforcing that “adequacy” in both form and function.

The problem, as it currently exists, is the same “span vs. depth” problem that every other online community I know of has — it rewards the loudest people, and allows the most frequent commenters to set the tone for the rest of the total discourse. Which is why I try to respond to many of these comments myself — not just because I have my own views I want to share, but because I am wary of what can happen to a community when a small number of commenters begin to dominate the discussion. (In “integral geek” language, it creates a series of Zone 4 patterns, permissions, resistances, and inertias that then begin to influence the actual Zone 3 interactions we have with each other in the space). So I try to jump in when I can, with whatever “teal enactment” strategies I am capable of, which oftentimes means deliberately taking one or more of the “early stage” tactics (for example, if I see someone coming from a purely “debate mode” tactic, I will often try to frame my responses so they are 50% debate-level, and 50% dialogue-level, in hopes that this can create an “upward draft” to bring the discussion to a higher dialogical level. That’s the intent, anyway, I’m not sure how effective this has been.)

I personally wish we could find a community platform that is somewhat more meritocratic, a system that is better suited for “knowledge generation” and creating “communities of the adequate” and can somehow reward depth and complexity of thought, rather than just frequency of thought. One that can better manage the polarity between “centralization” and “decentralization”, between top-down information flows and bottom-up information flows. For example, a system where site admins can identify specific “thought leaders”, and those individuals have a bit more weight behind their upvotes, a bit more visibility automatically brought to their comments, and a bit more influence when it comes to recognizing other possible “thought leaders”. Almost a seamless combination of this here Discourse platform, and something like Wikipedia, which attempts to recognize subject matter experts and gives them more weight in their ability to edit/generate articles.

However, without these kinds of 3rd-person platforms, we are left only with our own 1st-person sensibilities, and our 2nd-person relationships with each other. Which is why I started the “styles of engagement” thread above — I don’t have a good way to operationalize something like this in our community software. However, we all have a way to operationalize this in our own heads and hearts, and to use a frame like this as an ongoing “micro-practice” to help us guide our interactions with each other. My hope is that, between this sort of frame, and the invitation to “speak from your highest self” that we see in our Community Road Rules, we can find a way to up-level our interactions in this space, and up-level the discourse whenever it seems that one of us is “stuck” at any of the early stages described above. Again, the goal is not to eliminate debate altogether, but to enfold that debate with healthy dialogue, healthy discourse, and healthy enfoldment.

I hope that at least somewhat answers your questions!

1 Like

This is great. You do a lot! Designing a new community platform is no small feat, in my industry calls for things like that are what we like to refer to as the “all you gotta dos”. I hope someone who is more in tuned to these ideas is somewhere out there trying. It’s the needed innovation of the time.

By “taking down its tents”, do you mean to say that organizations such as Integral Life should simply stop making content, close the doors, and let the chips fall where they may? Or do you mean something more metaphorical than that?

The way I see it, new stages of development do not emerge without people actually doing something together. Creating systems, creating communities, creating space to practice together and grow together and to facilitate the emergence of new kinds of creativity and knowledge generation that is more immediately relevant to our ever-changing world. These stages don’t emerge around us, they emerge through us. So the fact that we as an organization have been able to keep the torch lit for nearly 20 years, and are now seeing much more activity in the integrally-adjacent “teal space”, is tremendously encouraging to me. In my own mind and heart, when it comes to the integral project, we are only getting started here.

As for the concerns that it may become a dogma, it’s a very important thing to keep an eye out for. This is one of the reasons I try to insist we do not allow integral to become an “ideology”. My hope is that by holding ourselves accountable to the sort of meta-paradigmatic principles that are baked right into the theory itself, we can escape the worst excesses of this kind of ossification. Or at least better recognize it when it starts to happen.

And Ken himself has done a great job keeping an eye on the sorts of “founder’s syndrome” that can cause folks like him to overly dogmatize the work, which is why he has happily excluded himself from our organizational decision-making. So the sorts of threats and entropies you mention are certainly real, and we really do our best to keep an eye on them, as much as we can.

When it comes to integral “taking its own pulse”, I think most people involved with the integral project are fairly sober in their self-reporting. Integral remains in most ways a “cognitive minority” with a very deep-but-narrow following, and that is proportional to the real-world influence we are generating. At the same time, the non-AQAL “teal space” as an actual developmental territory continues to get wider and wider, I think, and we are slowing seeing more folks in the world who are capable of dancing to those rhythms, regardless of their familiarity with Integral AQAL TM All Rights Reserved.

And of course, Integral Life is only one node in a larger ecosystem. We are predominantly an educational organization with a very small staff, designed to work with a revolving door of people who are interested in learning more about these ideas and applying them to their lives and to the world around them. And there are many others who are bringing integral to life in all sorts of different ways, in their own voices and their own vocations, whether they are integral therapists, integral humanitarians, or integral police officers trying to apply these practices and perspectives to transform their precinct.

I hope that addresses at least some of your questions/concerns!

1 Like